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Saratov collapses just months before new airport opens

Russian authorities have ordered the grounding of Saratov Airlines just months before a newly-developed airport for the city of Saratov is due to open.

The current city-centre airport, for which Saratov Airlines was the main carrier, is to switch to a different operating mode from 1 June in the wake of the collapse.

But federal air transport regulator Rosaviatsia says its continued functioning will help finance refunds to the airline's passengers if necessary.

Saratov airport has been due to close, to be replaced by the new Gagarin international airport located 20km to the north-east of the city.

Construction of the new passenger terminal complex is being conducted by SarAero-Invest, part of the Airports of Regions firm.

SarAero-Invest is aiming to complete the work by December this year, ahead of the airport's commissioning in 2019.

The company insists the Saratov Airlines situation "does not affect" its project.

Gagarin's terminal buildings, it states, were approved for construction in June last year and parts of it are 50% ready.

The terminal will be able to handle up to 1 million passengers annually.

Gagarin airport will have stands for 25 aircraft and a single runway 3,000m in length. The facility will be able to cope with aircraft up to the size of Boeing 767-300ERs.

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